On the fourth day of Christmas The Pink Whisk sent to me………ideas for decorating your Christmas Cake!

Christmas Cake Decorating
I feel like we’ve been working on our Christmas cakes for such a long time lovingly stirring boozy fruit, baking our precious cakes and feeding them with brandy it’s really exciting to be at the final stage – decorating!

For an 8″ cake you will need:

1 x 10″ cake board

500g marzipan

1kg ready to roll icing

2 tbsp apricot jam or marmalade

Unwrap your cake from the paper and foil you’ve been storing it in and set it on your worksurface.
See whether it is level, mine isn’t so it needs to be levelled with a knife – any excuse, it means I get to eat the trimmings!
Using a large serrated knife cut the dome of the top of the cake if necessary.

Prepare your cake board and position your cake on it so that the cut side is downwards.

Check that you’re happy with your levelling and adjust if necessary.
Take your jam or marmalade and zap it in the microwave for 30 seconds to soften.
Using a pastry brush paint the outside of the cake with a thin layer of jam (avoiding any bits!).  So now the cake is nice and sticky and will be ready to glue on the marzipan layer.

500g is enough marzipan to coat an 8″ cake.  If you love the taste of marzipan you can make this layer thicker but you will need more to do so.  Knead gently on your worksurface to ‘warm’ the marzipan which will make it easier to work with.

Take half of the marzipan and shape into a rough sausage shape.

Dust your worksurface with icing sugar and roll out the sausage into a long strip to reach around the outside of the cake.  Measure with string to help you know how long it needs to be.

Again with the string measure how tall your collar of marzipan needs to be and cut to the right height.  It should be 5mm above the top of the cake.

Easiest for cutting marzipan and sugarpaste is a pizza cutter, the type that rolls.
Position around the outside of the cake and trim neatly where the two edges meet.

Gather together the trimmings and the remaining half of marzipan and roll out to about 5mm thick on your worksurface.
Using the tin you baked the cake in as a template cut out a circle for the top of the cake.

Place the circle on the top of the cake, gently sealing together the edges where it meets the marzipan collar.

Use your hands to smooth the seams of the marzipan.  Smooth the top and the sides working out any major lumps and bumps.

Now you need to leave it to one side to dry a little – 24 to 48 hours.  Now I know you Pink Whiskers don’t like waiting and like to get things done here and now (far too impatient like me!) but it is important in getting a really good finish on the sugarpaste layer.  The marzipan needs to be slightly firmer to give you a fighting chance.  So put it to one side and come back to it tomorrow.
Okay, so the marzipan has set a little and we’re ready with the sugarpaste.
Work with 1kg of sugarpaste for an 8″ cake.  The thicker the sugarpaste the easier it is to work with and the less it will crack and split on you.  I’m not generally a fan of Supermarkets own brand sugarpaste as in the past I have found it too sticky.  But in the interests of The Pink Whiskers I have been trying them out – you’ll be fine with Dr Oetker, Sainsburys own brand and Asda’s own brand and Regalice.  (In fact I think the Asda one came out top in by book).

Dust the worksurface liberally with icing sugar.  Knead the sugarpaste to warm it up making it much more pliable.
Measure across the cake with a piece of string from the board, over the top and back onto the board again and cut the string to the right size.  Dampen the marzipan with a pastry brush dipped in a little bit of water.

Begin to roll out the sugarpaste making sure you have plenty plenty of icing sugar on the worksurface, once it sticks it’s gameover and you have to start again.
You can turn the sugarpaste when rolling but don’t flip it over.
Measuring with your piece of string keep rolling out, into a rough circle until the sugarpaste is just over the right size.

Polish the top of the sugarpaste with the flat of your hand to smooth it out.  Take any rings or watches off first as they always catch and rip up your hard work.  You will feel what I mean as you polish – the sugarpaste takes on a shine and will be super smooth.
Place the rolling pin in the middle of the rolled out icing and flip it over.

Use the rolling pin to lift into position on the cake.

Flip over the sugar paste and remove the rolling pin.

Starting on the top, ignore the sides for now, polish the top of the cake with the flat of your hand again.  When you are happy with the top start working the way down the cake with your hands, smoothing the sugarpaste into position.  Go slowly and work from the top of the cake down towards the board.  If the sugarpaste starts to crease lift it away from the cake and smooth from the top down again.  If the sugarpaste begins to crack you can ‘polish’ out the start of any cracks with the palm of your hand.

Eventually you will have worked all the way down to the board.  With a sharp knife trim off the excess sugarpaste at the base of the cake.  Wrap up the excess in clingfilm and save it for now.
Set your cake to one side and leave overnight to firm up.  Again this is important before we start adding the decoration as the sugarpaste is soft it is really easy to nick and mark it with your hands and we don’t want that do we?

So here’s a couple of ideas for decorating your cake.

First up ribbonage!

Thick ribbon

Thin ribbon

Two kinds of ribbon

The choice is yours, simply secure it at the back with a pin.

For the holly leaf cake, colour some sugarpaste green and little bit red, or use ready coloured.

Cut out 12 holly leaves.

Mark on the leaf veins with a back of a knife and drape over a rolling pin to curl.  Leave them to dry out overnight.

Score a faint circle onto the top of your cake using a circular cutter to use as a guide.

Secure the holly leaves in two’s using the circle as a guide to position them.  Take a small blob of sugarpaste and mash in a bowl with a few drops of water to make a glue.  Use to secure the holly leaves in place.

Make some holly berries using the red sugarpaste and glue in place.

I have also added some little silver balls, a dab of water will hold these in place.

Equipment Links to Amazon:

Holly Leaf Cutter

For the snowflake/star cake.

Cut out one large star and five small stars from white sugarpaste.  Cut out one large snowflake and five small ones in white too.

Lastly cut out some little white stars.

Position onto your cake using a little dab of water to glue together, again I have added some silver balls – just because I can’t leave them alone!

Equipment Links to Amazon:

Snowflake Plunger Cutters PME – Set of 3

Star Cutters

For the last cake idea I have made a little polar bear from sugarpaste.  Instead of covering the cake in white sugarpaste I have coloured some an ice blue colour.

Add an iceberg circle of white sugarpaste to the top for the polar bear to sit on.  Here’s how to make a polar bear.

Form the shapes shown in the picture – a tapered ball like an egg shape for the body, a ball for the head which I have shaped to form a slight muzzle,  two sausages for legs, two back legs like chicken drumsticks and two ears – circles pinched together to form a teardrop shape.

Indent the eyes using the end of a paintbrush and indent the ears too.

First stick the back legs in place using a dab of water.

Insert a piece of dry spaghetti through the body.  It will help secure the head.

Add the head.  Add the front legs and mark in some polar bear claws.  Poke two small paintbrush end holes in the head to stick the ears into.

Cut out a thin strip of coloured sugarpaste, fray the ends and stick into place as a scarf.

Add in small balls of black sugarpaste for the eyes and nose. Mark on his mouth using a drinking straw cut in half.

Add a couple of pieces of holly to his head and a couple of red berries too.

The entire cake has been brushed over with snowflake lustre dust so it is all sparkly and then I’ve added some little white stars too.

Equipment Links to Amazon:

White Cake Sparkles

PME Star Plunger Cutters – Set of 3

Christmas Cake Decorating
Whatever you choose to do with your cake have fun!  Don’t forget it’ll be delicious come Christmas Day!

Ruth Clemens, Baker Extraordinaire

Finalist on BBC2 The Great British Bake Off

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66 Responses to On the fourth day of Christmas The Pink Whisk sent to me………ideas for decorating your Christmas Cake!

  1. Pene says:

    Oh what lovely cakes ruth. I'm not a baker but I do enjoy reading all your recipes and maybe one day I'll be brave enough to try one. However having seem you decorate this cake maybe I could buy a fruit cake and give it a go after all you make it look so easy. Thanks again for all your wonderful inspiration
    Pene x

  2. Jane says:

    Ruth, your generosity in sharing these great ideas, with such helpful detail, is wonderful! I looked very early this morning not thinking there would be today's post yet, and there it was! What a lovely way to start the day – and I will ask the children to decide which version of the cake they would like to help me ice! Thanks again, great series of posts for Christmas.

  3. Victoria Plum says:

    Every year I make a Christmas cake and always struggle with the icing and marzipanning … although I think they look good in the end! It has never occurred to me to use a pizza cutter, or the tin as a template! I feel like the heavens have opened and a ray of light is shining down on me!!

    Am off to brave the ice and get my stuff to finish off my cake!

    Thanks for the tips!

  4. Anonymous says:

    I have made a christmas cake this year, unfortunately not your recipe as I didn't get organized in time, and I was just thinking about how to ice it! I was going to do a very boring design with two strips of red icing to make it look like a ribbon and a bow. (Like a present) but since I have the utmost confidence in your recipes I think I'll try doing the holly design. I love the poler bear but I fear it is not traditional enough for my family's taste:(
    Oh well, maybe they will be a bit more forgiving as I'm only 13.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Hiya… Just a silly question… Why did you covered the cake with marzipan and then the sugar paste ? Is it just for taste ? Can I just cover the cake with only sugar paste ?

  6. Arline says:

    Ruth, these are fantastic! I love the polar bear one! The holly looks great though…wish I'd seen this before I'd iced mine! Maybe next year…I had a go at making my own for the first time this year and cut it into strips and just did a little decoration on the top…tis on my blog if you want a look-nothing compared to yours though!! All shop bought though, bar the cake obviously! Didn't know you could 'paint' on colour to the white icing you can buy…what do you use to do this? Some great ideas…thanks for sharing!x

  7. Lucie says:

    Wow! These look wonderful, I wish you could pop round and do mine for me 🙂

  8. Anonymous says:

    wow! this is incredible, nice work. You make everything so simple.

  9. Ruth says:

    Arline – the icing is coloured by working a little of the coloured gel – see link above – into the sugarpaste and then rolled out and used to cover the cake.

  10. Ruth says:

    The marzipan and sugarpaste combination is traditional for a fruit cake. As fruit cakes are generally lumpy by nature the first layer of marzipan helps to smooth out the cake before adding the sugarpaste. If you don't like marzipan you can add two layers of sugarpaste or indeed just one but the finish won't be as smooth.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I love the polar bear Ruth and might just give that a go but tell me, what did you use to give your holly leaves that lovely shine?

  12. PlumLeaf 李葉 says:

    Beautifully decorated cakes Ruth! You are a wonder to us all! Thank you for your knowledge and tips on decorating Christmas Cakes!
    I have a Christmas Cake order that I need to start decorating this wkend and I feel inspired and motivated by you now!

  13. abigail*ryan says:

    We are so behind – still to bake and decorate ours!

    So many fab ideas here…

    We got into cake decorating in the summer, and are hooked! This was our first go > http://abigailryanblog.blogspot.com/2010/07/cake-fit-for-very-special-party.html

    Probably won't go so elaborate this time (no spare week! ;)) but I have been dying to try out making Chrysanthemums, so maybe some of those… but the snowflakes look gorgeous, too!

    So hard to choose between all the ideas… thanks for all the tips!

    Enjoy your cakes, and merry Christmas, x

  14. Linby says:

    These are soooo beautiful, too nice to eat!

  15. Stephanie says:

    Wonderful step-by-step instructions and, of course, beautiful and inspirational cakes. Thank you for sharing.

  16. Aileen says:

    Thanks for the instructions Ruth – I'm doing my first Christmas cake this year. Two questions: what do you think of the quick royal icing finish and also, when baking cakes I've seen recipes using cup measures – do I need to worry about whether they are US or UK?

  17. Anonymous says:

    Just a little tip for you – if you are trying to smooth your icing on the cake and not getting a result you are happy with take a lump of left over icing, (in the same colour) and "polish" the icing on the cake, this should smooth it down and give it a bit of a shine!

  18. Claire Nolan says:

    my boozy fruit is very sticky , i simmered first maybe this was a mistake
    can i still make the cake?

  19. Anonymous says:

    I love them all – how am I ever going to choose! I might have to try a combo, although this will probably fail and it will look like I have tried to cram too much in. Might just go with snowflakes and holly?

    This 12 days idea is fabulous – I do too much Christmas baking as it is, but now I don't think I will actually be leaving the kitchen. Thanks so much for sharing! xx

  20. Doris says:

    Hi, Thanks for these brill ideas, my cake is eagerly waiting to be iced. Quick question, once it's iced how should i store it, do i need to wrap it in foil or can it just go straight into a cake box? Oooh and I normally put my marzipan on in the same way as i do the icing (rolling it out and then laying it over the cake) is this ok as i see you do the sides and then the top?! Thanks

  21. Veronica says:

    Your instructions and brilliant photos makes me, and I'm sure most people, feel that they can do it too. Brilliant, thank you so much Ruth.

  22. Becky says:

    Ruth, you make it look so easy! I will definitely be trying it next year (found your blog a little late this year!) Really enjoy reading your posts and the recipes I have tried of yours have all come out superb and very tasty – brilliant instructions and really good read!

  23. Ruth says:

    Store your cake in a tin or a box, once its covered it keeps the moisture in the cake.

    The reason for doing the marzipan in a collar and then a top is that it gives a sharper edge at the top, you can do it in one sheet but you will have a much rounder edge when the sugarpaste covering goes on.

  24. Ruth says:

    If the boozy fruit is quite sticky go ahead making the cake – when its made just check the consistency, if you think it's too gluey add a little milk to loosen. You should be fine though x

  25. Ruth says:

    Glo – the shine comes from steaming the sugarpaste after decoration – I wouldn't advise it if you haven't done it before – its a sure fire way to wreck a cake. I use a handheld steamer. Alternatively you could use a specialist sugarcraft confectioners varnish or brush with a little water – although this can make it sticky so you need to cover it afterwards to stop it catching any fluff!

  26. Craft Princess says:

    Hi Ruth, Love your designs and this is the first year I've made a Christmas cake. I'm making my Granny's secret recipe and she always iced it in royal icing. Do you have any decoration ideas using royal icing? I'm a novice at royal icing…!

  27. Sally - My Custard Pie says:

    These are some of the most comprehensive instructions I've ever seen. I make my Christmas cake every year and have made various quite complicated children's cakes plus I've completed an icing course…..but I learned so much from this post. This year's Christmas cake will be my most beautiful yet I'm sure.

  28. Liz says:

    Thank you so much, I've been looking for ideas of how to decorate my cake. Yours look fab!
    Liz x

  29. Anonymous says:

    I'm having a dilemma, and i realise i'll sound a fool when i explain what i need to do:

    I need to make one of these cakes by Saturday morning, today is Tuesday morning…is this possible? I don't expect it to be a boozy cake, can i just mix the unsoaked fruit straight into the cake mixture to bake and still have decent results? Or is the soaking neccessary for the moistness? Equally i wouldn't be able to feed the cake. So the plan would be to bake the cake tonight/Wednesday, marzipan it the next night, then ice it the next night. Would this work?
    I will accept criticism for being a tad behind :s

  30. Ruth says:

    The quickest way to get it done is to weigh out the fruit and then add some boiling water, just enough to cover and leave to soak for an hour, when the fruit has plumped up, drain off the excess water and then go ahead and bake the cake. Don't worry too much about not feeding the cake as soon as it is cool cover with marzipan which will seal the moisture into the cake x

  31. Anonymous says:

    Thank you so much for the quick reply! I've just rushed out and bought the ingredients on my lunch break so i can make a good start on it tonight. Thanks Ruth for the massive help xx

  32. Anonymous says:

    Ruth's recipe is my first Christmas cake (with some help from my mother!) I've followed the recipe to a tee, the only change is I made almond paste instead of marzipan. I'll be icing it this weekend and decorating. Can't wait to cut the first slice!!

  33. Anonymous says:

    I've been baking for years and everyone tells me I should start my own business – you really are an inspiration to all us budding bakers out there. I'm really happy to have found your website and I think that your photos for demonstrating icing cakes are the best I've come across. Simple and step-by-step. Great ideas for decorating my cake differently this year – thats my pre-christmas job sorted for tomorrow!

  34. hayley says:

    Hi Ruth, i have a question i hope you can answer for me? i have made my cake which has been sat in an airtight container. i have done the marzipan and iced it as per your instructions above (thank you it looks good so far). I want to decorate it with a sugarpaste santa but am not sure when i should do the sant bit. I want the cake to last until christmas day and am concerned if i finish it now it will spoil as it will not fit into my airtight container with the santa on top. Can it be stored in a standard cardboard cake box until christmas or should i leave the final touches until a day or so before christmas day? i hop eyou can help. P.S. I love your site it is amazing, i couldnt have done my cake without you x x thank you x x

  35. Ruth says:

    Hi Hayley finish it off now and it will be fine – it doesn't need to be in an airtight container a cardboard box will be fine – it only needs covering to keep the dust off! And little fingers that may be tempted to pinch a bit! xx

  36. Linda says:

    Quick question re leftover ready to roll icing. How long do you think it will keep? I've wrapped it in the foil wrapper it came in and then in clingfilm. Would it need to go in the fridge? I'd like to use it for making some cupcake decorations after Christmas.
    Thanks again for the great instructions and lovely recipes. Have a wonderful Christmas and looking forward to lots more Pink Whisk recipes in the new year.

  37. Catherine says:

    Ruth thankyou so much, your expert guidance has been invaluable! I've just done my marzipan (yes it's a bit late!) and your method worked perfectly. Great tip about using a pizza wheel by the way. Love your site it's brillant.
    Catherine, West Mids

  38. Ruth says:

    Left over ready to roll icing will keep in the cupboard, well wrapped in clingfilm so the air can't get to it for a good couple of months.

  39. SarahF says:

    wow, wow, wow. your holly and snowflake cakes look so beautifully elegant. thank you for taking the time to write clear directions.
    i loved you on the great british bakeoff. you were my favourite 🙂

    Sarah, Sydenham, London xx

  40. decorating says:

    some very good advice thanks!

  41. Marguerita Smith says:

    LOVE, love your site and these gorgeous cakes… May I ask, where have the references to amazon gone? I would love to copy your snowflakes but there are so many cutters to choose from and you don’t really get enough sizing info…Can you help please, Marguerita

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  43. Kim Hutchinson says:

    Hi Ruth

    Last year I made your lovely Christmas cake recipe. This year I’ve got my boozy fruit going but I can’t find your cake recipe, is it still here?


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  46. Thanks so much for these ideas- yesterday I did the polar bear and a version of the gingerbread men- so cute 🙂

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  49. Judy says:

    I always loved baking and decor. But never had a chance to do them when growing up due to limitations economically. Thanks for these wonderful ideas. I can only bless you for the being selfless. I guess what I have learned will help put food on the table of the hungry.

  50. Danyelle says:

    Hi Ruth, love your site, so helpful! I’ve already started on Chritmas cakes this year as I’ve been asked to make some for other people. I just wondered when is the earliest you would marzipan/sugar paste them? Could I start this month, once they’ve had a few feeds of brandy?

    • Hi Danyelle, Yes you could start this month. They keep well once sealed in by the marzipan and icing. Just make sure you store them covered so that the icing doesn’t dry out too much x

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  52. Jodie says:

    Hi Ruth, I love the polar bear cake, can I ask what colour you used to get the fantastic blue?

  53. Donna says:

    I’m loving the decorating ideas. Have you got ideas for decorating with royal icing?

  54. Jasmine says:

    What did I do before you came on the scene Ruth?

  55. Lynne W says:

    You make it look so easy, but i am going to have a go at the holly leaf cake, it looks lovely

  56. Beverley Patterson says:

    I have a few cakes to decorate, and love the polar bear, I might just give him a try.

    Loving this competition.

  57. Caroline says:

    Dear Ruth, being in France ready roll icing is not available. I do have Silver Spoon Fondant Icing Sugar in the cupboard. If I make this up is this the same thing? I really fancy having a go at the holly leaf decoration. Thank you, Caroline

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